Tag Archives: american poetry

Joshua Edwards

Cathay
Wrongheaded and obsequious
on vacation, unnerved
by new surroundings, I miss
the bright feeling of belonging
and the familiar patterns of my country,
its virginity and schizophrenia,
my several stolen bicycles.

 


Symbolic gestures feel
bound not by referential expression,

but by mystery and drama. If all
languages are essentially alike,
then softness or firmness is a matter
of tissues in which blood takes a clausal

complement. Taste for etymology,
however, comes from the poetry of
crucial decision making, fruit in one

hand and broad-bladed knife in the other.

 

Late morning
In a vending machine I see my reflection
alongside the sun’s, and I watch these two
impervious flowers of being merge, transpose,
and dehisce, faces ghosted together on parallel
planes of glass, laughing over the foaming ocean.
To imagine the self as the sun or its warmth
is pleasurable, but something else is needed
to purge the urban smell from the dank
library of late morning. Walking along
the seawall, I feel waves and wind beating
against the island’s rocks and shoulders,
I see citizens filled with sorrow that expands
as water orchestrates their slow effacement.
Just as I arrive home, two salesmen accost me.
They want to sell me my preternatural face.
They tell me that although time is running out,
I can still find happiness, romance, and eternity.
I reply that I believe in an impersonal life,
I’m hermetic, and my blood is on fire.

 

Problems of knowledge
Translation broadens language
as divorce and remarriage extend family.
Born to fade and break, facts
huddle inside black brackets.
Work means inquisition as a child
separates a cricket’s wings from thorax.
Ideas come apart as monads, metastasizing
rhapsody on the edge of delicate dusk.
Thunder sounds in the distance or television,
always on in this constant rain.

Poems by Joshua Edwards

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Aram Saroyan

Minimal Poems by Aram Saroyan
(New York, 1943)

[You can read the whole book here

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Ed Ruscha

Artwork by Ed Ruscha (US, 1937)

For a great text about him, you can click here

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Joe Brainard

“I remember the only time I ever saw my mother cry. I was eating apricot pie”

“I remember my first erections. I thought I had some terrible disease or something”

“I remember how good a glass of water can taste after a dish of ice cream”

“I remember my first sexual experience in a subway. Some guy (I was afraid to look at him) got a hard-on and was rubbing it back and forth against my arm. I got very excited and when my stop came I hurried out and home where I tried to do an oil painting using my dick as a brush”

“I remember many first days of school. And that empty feeling”

“I remember a little boy I used to take care of after school while his mother worked. I remember how much fun it was to punish him for being bad”

 

Imaginary Still Life No. 1: I close my eyes. I see a light-green vase. A very pale light-green vase. Right beside it sits something black. Something small. It is a small black ashtray. Getting smaller by the moment. Until–really–it is hardly more than–now–a tiny speck”

Imaginary Still Life No. 8: I close my eyes. I see pink. And green. And gold. All mixed up together. But now slowly evolving into three distinctive shapes. (. . . .) It is a pink kimono, gently discarded upon the corner of a green dressing table, which enters the picture frame at a very sharp angle. Behind it stands a gold screen of three panels. In this particular Japanese still life one gets the impression that something is going on that cannot be seen”

 

 

Joe Brainard  (US 1942–94)

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Scripture of scintillas

In california 
Pale, then enkindled,
light
advancing,
emblazoning
summits of palm and pine,
the dew
lingering,
scripture of
scintillas.
Soon the roar
of mowers
cropping the already short
grass of lawns,
men with long-nozzled
cylinders of pesticide
poking at weeds,
at moss in cracks of cement,
and louder roar
of helicopters off to spray
vineyards where braceros try
to hold their breath,
and in the distance, bulldozers, excavators,
babel of destructive construction.
Banded by deep
oakshadow, airy
shadow of eucalyptus,
miner’s lettuce,
tender, untasted,
and other grass, unmown,
luxuriant,
no green more brilliant.
Fragile paradise.
         .   .   .   .
At day’s end the whole sky,
vast, unstinting, flooded with transparent
mauve,
tint of wisteria,
cloudless
over the malls, the industrial parks,
the homes with the lights going on,
the homeless arranging their bundles.
         .   .   .   .
Who can utter
the poignance of all that is constantly
threatened, invaded, expended
and constantly
nevertheless
persists in beauty,
tranquil as this young moon
just risen and slowly
drinking light
from the vanished sun.
Who can utter
the praise of such generosity
or the shame?
Denise Levrtov
(1923–1997)
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